Our church always cranks it up a notch at Christmas. Actually, we strive for as high a calibre of creativity and execution as possible every weekend, but we always try to do something extra at Christmas. Our primary motivation is that we recognize that this is the time of year when it is often possible to reach some people who perhaps are otherwise reluctant to cross the threshold. The presentation of the gospel through the lens of the biblical Christmas story can often facilitate the honest introspection necessary for an unbeliever or a marginal believer to recast their entire life in a new and profound direction. A direction that will lead them into the life eternal.
This year, we are producing a dinner theater performance entitled The Christmas Rewind combined with about an hours worth of music. The play is a hilarious spoofy retelling of the Christmas story with four actors and a narrator, characterized by snappy repartee and a dizzying procession of lightning fast costume changes. We are fortunate that we have some really gifted actors and technical folk who are doing an excellent job.
For the musical segment of the program, we are doing several special Christmas arrangements, including the one by my friend Mark Bovee, mentioned in the previous entry as well as half-a-dozen or so jazzed-up Christmas carols. We brought in some friends to play in our little pit orchestra. Jeff Reed, an outstanding jazz pianist from Indianapolis and Pat O'Neal, an area band director who plays jazz sax and flute. With Kevin McDonald on drums, me on guitar, and my buddy Steve Matthews (who is way too busy to blog right now) playing bass and leading us, it is really a fun group. And every one of those guys is a serious artist...I mean really good, professional players. I'm fortunate to get to hang with these guys.
The only unfortunate thing is that I just really suck as a jazz guitar player. First of all, I never play straight-ahead jazz except at Christmas. I just don't. I like jazz and I listen to it often, but I am really a rock-and-roll guy. My roots are rock, R&B, funk, blues, and other pop styles. I enjoy improvisation, but I just don't go for the jazz vibe usually. I could be a jazz guy, I should be a jazz guy, and I wouldn't mind being a jazz guy. In fact, I would love being a jazz guy. But, to date anyway, I just haven't put the time in necessary to make it happen. So I fake it. Actually, I know all the characteristic chord voicings and can play jazz rhythm guitar all evening long. But when it comes time for some kind of blistering solo through changes...I just sound like a rank beginner. For me, it's usually like tip-toeing through a mine field. When it's my turn to solo I find myself concentrating not on playing something melodic, but just on avoiding playing any wrong notes...and that, folks, ain't art. It also makes me sweat profusely until my 16-bars are done and I'm safely back comping rhythm.
In addition to not really having the right mindset, I don't have the right equipment. To really play jazz, you need one of these babies:
Now that is sweet. It is a Gibson L-5 CES. It's called having the right tool for the job. Admittedly, owning one of these babies wouldn't make me a jazz player any more than owning a power drill makes me a carpenter. But, hey, it would be a good start. At least I would feel more like a jazz player, which would help.
And even though my solos would still sound like crap, people would say, "man, that guy's guitar is beautiful."
That is one of the the best things about music. Regardless of how good you are and how much you know, just over the horizon is whole new unexplored territory waiting for you to venture in. Living forever is going to be so cool, too, because I'll finally have time to explore those unknown lands.
In heaven, I'll be a hot jazz guitar player. Until then, I'll fake it every chance I get.